EPA GHG Emissions Rules Will Get Supreme Court Review

industrial plant emissions

by | Oct 16, 2013

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industrial plant emissionsThe Supreme Court has agreed to review whether the EPA can require greenhouse gas emissions permits for stationary sources such as refineries.

In its Oct. 15 order the court said it would limit its review to “whether EPA permissibly determined that its regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles triggered permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act for stationary sources that emit greenhouse gases.”

The court did not, however, agree to hear other appeals to the EPA’s regulatory authority submitted by business groups and states such as whether GHG emissions constitute a pollutant and its 2007 Massachusetts vs. EPA decision that the EPA has a “statutory obligation” to regulate GHGs under the Clean Air Act.

“The key today is not only what the court did agree to hear but what it didn’t,” says Thomas Lorenzen, who recently left the US Justice Department after more than a decade as its assistant chief in the Environment and Natural Resources Division. He’s now a partner at international law firm Dorsey & Whitney.

Because the court only agreed to review the EPA’s interpretation that the so-called “tailpipe rules” triggered Prevention of Significant Deterioration, or PSD, permitting for stationary sources, Lorenzen tells Environmental Leader that the “EPA will press ahead with its new source performance standards for GHG emissions from new power plants and its GHG emissions guidelines from existing power plants.”

Even a Supreme Court decision invalidating EPA’s interpretation of the PSD provisions of the statute is unlikely to affect the agency’s authority to issue carbon pollution limits from new and existing power plants, Lorenzen says.

Environmentalists and industry groups alike declared Tuesday’s Supreme Court action a victory. The Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund praised the court’s decision to deny legal challenges to the EPA’s determination that greenhouse gases threaten the health of people and the environment.

Meanwhile industry groups applauded the court’s decision to review the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations from stationary sources.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) — one of the industry groups that filed a petition challenging the EPA’s GHG rules — said “manufacturers are pleased” with the court’s decision. NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons called GHG regulations from stationary sources “one of the most costly, complex and harmful regulatory issues facing manufacturers and threatening our global competitiveness.”

Oil industry groups American Petroleum Institute (API) and American Petrochemical & Fuel Manufacturers (APFM), both of which also petitioned the court to review the EPA’s GHG rules, applauded the court’s action as well.

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